Keeping Public Parks the Public Commons
Protest Against ID Card for Entry to Lalbagh and Cubbon Park Gains Strength
Queen's Statue, Cubbon park, Monday, 30th November, 2009
Over 200 people rallied at Cubbon Park on Monday, 30th November 2009, to voice their outrage at the proposed plan by Karnataka Horticulture Minister Umesh Katti to restrict access to Cubbon Park and Lalbagh by imposing mandatory ID cards for anyone who wishes to enter in the mornings and evenings. This heinous violation of the Right of Access to Public Spaces transforms the two heritage sites into elite clubs which will require this new "membership card" for entry. It is an exclusionary tactic catering primarily to middle-class walkers, which ignores the many other people who use the parks on a daily basis. Who will be most affected by this outrageous policy? The urban poor (particularly minorities), street and working children, elderly people, transgender, migrant workers, labourers, street vendors, drivers of autorickshaws and taxis, differently abled, families with children, just to name a few. Representatives from these affected communities decided to not take this violation of their rights sitting down. They came together to shout with one voice "Idu Namma Parku. Beda, beda, ID beda."
Wrapped around Queen's Road, the protesters held signs saying things like "ID cards, back to the British Raj" and "Yella OK, ID yaake?" Many, including children, got the chance to yell into the microphone and lead their comrades in protest slogans. Over 175 signatures flowed over the pages of the petition circulated at the event. To see the diversity of the groups represented at the event was heartwarming, though troubling, knowing that these were the people who were going to be most hurt by the imposition of ID cards and exorbitant fees. This included representation from Slum Jagatthu, CIEDS, Vimochana, Dalit Sangharsh Samiti- Samyojaka (Bangalore Dist.), Sanmathi, Alternative Law Forum, Stree Jagruthi Samithi, CIVIC Bangalore, Samara, Sangama, EQUATIONS, Karnataka Sex Workers Union, ATREE, LesBiT, Concerned for Working Children, Hasiru Usiru, Urban Research Center, Open Space, and Environment Support Group, among many others. Despite the unfortunate circumstances for the congregation, spirits were light, and smiling eyes reflected the joys of the solidarity which comes from standing against injustice.
As the roadside demonstration drew to a close, Justice M.F. Saldanha (Retd.) arrived to show his support. He spoke with a small group of protestors and media reporters on the troubling nature of this proposal. Protestors gathered in front of the Queen's statue to reflect on the problem at hand, and what to do next. Protest leaders and participants gave impassioned speeches of the need to stop this heinous policy of exclusion, and work towards making parks open to all. Justice Saldanha voiced his commitment to challenge this "totally illegal" action. "This time I am with all of you. We are all together, shoulder to shoulder. We will see that nothing of this type ever happens. We will fight it back all the way." Leaders called for another protest the following Sunday at Lalbagh to continue the campaign forward.
Even as the protestors were heading back home, an email was received from the office of the Chief Minister of Karnataka directing the Commissioner of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike to take appropriate action on the protestors demands. No communication has been received from Commissioner BBMP thus far, despite the Chief Minister's directions.
Please join us another protest against this ID Card business at Lalbagh West Gate, Bangalore on Sunday, 6 December at 7.30 am.
This initiative is coordinated by Lalbagh Walkers Association and is demanding the total withdrawal of the electronic ID Card proposal and entry fee into Lalbagh and Cubbon Park. Fronting a variety of new groups and networks that have joined this growing movement, the demand is that all parks and public spaces must be freely accessible to all peoples without any discrimination.
Please be there to secure your Parks for you, for now and forever.
Report prepared by Jake Carlson, Visitor to Environment Support Group.
ESG is an independent not-for-profit organisation that promotes the cause of environmental and social justice through research, documentation, advocacy, training and campaign support. We aim to support the rights of local communities and voiceless ecosystems in a responsible, progressive manner that keeps contextual complexities in mind.